Noah Lyles explains why he ran with 'Yu-Gi-Oh!' cards at U.S. Olympic trials, lists goals for Paris Olympics

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Noah Lyles does not like the 200m bronze medal he earned at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but he is considering taking it to Paris this summer. 

“Just to remind myself every day what the goal is,” he told CBS Sports. “I’m not a fan of it just because I know that year, and most years, I was coming in as the dominant favorite in the 200m, and it was just a really rough year mentally. Physically as well because I couldn’t get my mind right as much as I was trying to feel better.”

Lyles said it was frustrating to not be able to get his body to do what he wanted him to do, but he can use the struggles from 2021 to level up. 

“Moving on, it’s just a mentality of yeah, I’m never going to let it get that bad again,” he said. “It’s a burning desire of constantly improving myself mentally and physically so that I don’t have that happen again.”

Lyles tries to not overstudy when it comes to looking at what his opponents are doing. Instead, he focuses on watching his own tape and seeing how he can improve his performance. He has a lot of confidence and plenty of energy — but he does like to drink half a Celsius about an hour and a half or two hours before warming up for a race. He has a partnership with the company and his current top flavor is Dragonberry.

“I don’t usually need a lot. I can only finish about half a can before I have as much energy as I need because I’m usually a very energetic guy,” he said. “It’s kind of funny that the guy who has all the energy needs an energy drink, but it still makes sense.”

Lyles also has his own unique strategy to make track meets more fun. He likes to have different themes, and during the U.S. Olympic trials the theme was “Yu-Gi-Oh!” because of a deal he made with shot put star Chase Ealey. Lyles ran with “Yu-Gi-Oh!” cards tucked in his tracksuit, including all five pieces of Exodia — a creature that leads to an automatic win if activated.

Meanwhile, Ealey also completed her end of the deal by dropping the Rock Lee weights — a reference to the popular anime franchise “Naruto” — during her event.

Lyles will not be repeating the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” theme in Paris, but he will definitely come up with something that turns heads.

“I always have a theme, so there will be something,” he said. “I had a few ideas but I think something different might be coming in the works. Now that I’ve done the ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!,’ it has kind of changed the trajectory of what that theme was going to be.”

Whatever the theme is, his goal is straightforward when it comes to preparing for Paris 2024: “to win as many medals as possible.” Not only is he aiming for the sprint double with gold in the 100m and 200m races, he is also looking for the 4x100m relay gold and hopes to get the opportunity to compete in the 4x400m relay – which he won’t find out until the day before the final.

Interestingly enough, Lyles didn’t always take the Olympics that seriously. He said that in 2004, when he was about seven years old, his uncle was watching the Athens Games during a family reunion and Lyles didn’t quite understand the hype.

“He was like, ‘all these countries decide to go to this one event, and if you win then you are basically the champion of the world,'” Lyles recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Ok, and they just all agree to this? What’s so special about it?'” 

Things changed in 2012 when he watched the opening ceremonies of the London Games and he had already fallen in love with track. 

“Me and my brother had decided we were going to make the 2016 team in the next four years,” he said. “That is when we knew what it was, knew how important it was.”

Now, Lyles holds a personal best of 19.31 seconds in the 200m, which is the American record and the third-fastest time ever. Usain Bolt still holds the all-time record at 19.19 seconds.

While in 2004 he did not understand what was so special about being a world champion, now he understands it a little bit too well.

“I’m a six-time world champion,” he said. It feels like business as normal.

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